With the 2009 critically acclaimed LP In The Ruff, the trifecta of Washington DC emcees known as Diamond District stepped up to the plate to help shine a spotlight on their city’s Hip Hop culture. Oddisee, Uptown XO, and yU the 78er have once again combined forces for another group project created to emphasize the artistic creativity emerging from our nation’s capital.
Diamond District’s March On Washington is a 14-track album dedicated to the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) natives that have supported the area’s growing rap scene.
“This album is about Washington, DC Hip Hop continuing to march on and move on, regardless of whether or not our city is known as being a haven for Hip Hop,” explains Oddisee. “The artists that come from our area and the people who we do it for, the fans, will continue to move on with our movement. That’s what the whole project has to do about.”
In the music world, DC was best known as the birthplace of the rhythmic-centered genre known as Go-Go Music, but homegrown Hip Hop has been edging its way into the hearts and minds of residents of the region. The members of Diamond District actually first got to know each other on the underground scene in Washington close to a decade ago.
After first meeting at a local open mic showcase, Oddisee tapped Uptown XO and yU the 78er to appear on his Foot In The Door mixtape in 2006. The synergy of the song “Gully” played a part in convincing Oddisee to ask XO and yU to join a rap group he was putting together. The trio chose to go against the prevailing music winds at the time and kept their first collaborative effort rooted in traditional Hip Hop.
“Go-Go was the main genre of music here, so what we were doing wasn’t cool as far as people calling it ‘backpack rapping.’ We were the backpackers that had the fundamentals and awareness of Hip Hop,” says XO. “We’ve been defining ourselves as Hip Hop greats since back then.”
Five years after In The Ruff, the three performers are still keeping the essence of Hip Hop as part of their brand. While March On Washington is not an overtly political project, tracks like “First Step” and “Lost Cause” do touch on social issues. In a time period where war, police shootings, and income inequality dominate the news, Diamond District recognizes that musical artists have a role to play in conveying empowering and uplifting messages to their listeners.
“I think people forget how much their expression means. You literally have millions of people following you,” says yU. “You stand up on stage in front of thousands of people, and that’s no different than those leaders back in the day standing in front of a podium speaking. I don’t think a lot of musicians fully use their voice at a time when people’s ears are wide open.”
Being from the town where the monumental 1963 March On Washington and other protest events throughout history were held gives Diamond District a specific outlook on the power of political action, striving for significant social change, and cultural representation.
“We come from a city where everybody comes to demonstrate their cause,” states Oddisee. “We sit on sidewalks and in front of our houses and see people marching down the street with picket signs all year round. Yet, we have a cause right within our city that we want to see prevail – that’s just the continuation of our music.”
Stream the album below.